On the first day of this week, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi resolutely put her nation's interest above that of her party by calling the communists enemies of progress. By the last day of the week, she and her man in tow, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had beaten a hasty retreat. Spelling the death knell for the Indo-US nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is quoted as having declared at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit,
The end of the nuclear deal will not mean the end of the Government. We are not a one-issue Government. The deal not coming through is not the end of life.
Yes, of course, but what kind of a leadership turns around in less than a week, and puts the life of its party over the life of a nation? What caused this sudden volte-face for the worse?
Two significant events took place during the week. One, the week long visit of Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, the IAEA Director General, ostensibly as an invitee to the same leadership summit. The other, the meeting of the unofficial UPA-Communist panel on the nuclear deal on October 9. It is possible that Dr. El Baradei had eased the government's concerns about a delay in concluding the safeguard agreement, a delay that the communists had insisted on. He's reported to have confirmed that the IAEA had already four such agreements with India. An additional agreement incorporating the features demanded by the Indo-US nuclear agreement was not that big a deal. It could be concluded in a matter of a few weeks, whenever the Indian Government was ready.
I do not think that Dr. El Baradei's assurances could have caused the UPA's capitulation to the communists. If anything, it should have strengthened the UPA's hands. The Indian nuclear establishment must have known about this all along. Besides, flexibility in concluding the safeguard agreement with the IAEA has little or nothing to do with the schedule of the Bush Administration and the US Congress.
That leaves us with whatever that happened at the October 9 meeting of the UPA and the communists. The communists had bristled at Mrs. Gandhi's accusation that their
progressive party was an impediment to India's progress. Did they threaten bloodshed at the meeting? Apparently, they did make it clear that they'd approach the President with a demand for a no confidence motion. And, they'd not hesitate to topple the government, even if it meant voting with the BJP. That's a serious threat indeed, but I'd be very surprised if Mrs. Gandhi had not anticipated this. The lady has come a long way from a grieving, politically naive, widow of another polically naive husband, to miss out on such a simple threat.
What pushed the UPA into a corner must have had less to do with the survival of the Singh government, than with the chances of a return of the Congress-led government after the elections. Enter this scoop from CNN-IBN about the October 9 meeting:
Left leaders targeted Singh and made several accusations against him. Some of these allegations were: "Why has the Prime Minister not visited any major Muslim country? Why did the Government not side with Iran during the debate on its nuclear programme? Why did the Government not condemn the hanging of Saddam Hussein?"
Yeah, right, what has the Prime Minister done to win the
votes hearts and minds of the oppressed Muslim minority? Why has he not converted to Islam? How come he has not taken a pilgrimage to Mecca yet?
What the f&@# does Singh's Haj have to do with the Indo-US nuclear deal? Why is the dead Saddam Hussein being raised from the ashes to challenge a deal that would have likely made this the Indian Century? Why should India support Iran's nuclear program? Don't these dodo heads realize that the intermediate range nuclear missiles on Iran's eastern border can reach New Delhi in a nano-fraction of the time that Nader Shah's marauding armies took?
alists' accusations were but thinly veiled [pun intended] to hide the vote bank politics that lay behind. Pushed into their own corner, they went for the UPA's jugular. You call us enemies of progress, but you are the real enemies of Muslims. Comrades and brothers, how can you trust this man who has not visited a single major Muslim country during his last three years in the government to be your friend? A friend of your enemy [and ours, too] cannot be a friend of yours, can he? Saudi Arabia's prophet is our prophet, and casting your vote for the communal Congress Party will be nothing short of apostasy. That's right, its tit-for-tat. If you branded us regressive, we will brand you communal.
Being branded communal in India these days is the equivalent of being branded anti-Christ in the USA. It's guaranteed to turn away the Muslim vote bank. Loss of a majority of Muslim votes will be the final nail in the coffin for the grand old party of India. Even Rahul Gandhi knows that!